Ulladulla, Books and Empty Esky

My connection with the south coast of New South Wales goes way back. The beautiful coast is an area that was featured on the media over Christmas and New Year because of the apocalyptic bushfires. It was peak tourist season which made it both an environmental and economic disaster.

In normal years Easter would have been the perfect tonic for a semblance of financial recovery as families from Sydney and Canberra flock to the area for school holidays – and Ulladulla’s annual Blessing Of The Fleet celebrations. This is a ceremony which started back in the mid 1950’s when Ulladulla, which means “safe harbour”, was the port for the largest fishing fleet on the south coast and run by Italian immigrants who brought the centuries old tradition over from Sicily.

I have many fond memories of the Blessing Of The Fleet festivities including the year my sister and I were forced to get out of our cossies and to frock up in our Sunday best to meet the Special Navy Guest for the occasion, Admiral Crabbe, whom my  ten year old sister greeted with a “Welcome Admiral Crap”.

2020 has been anything but normal. We spent Easter in lockdown.

Back in the 70’s my Dad won enough money on a galloper named Rajah Sahib to buy a block of land on the hill overlooking Ulladulla harbour. In later years he would wait for the trawlers to return and watch the unloading of their catches from the comfort of his lounge room. Both his and my sister’s ashes were scattered in the ocean just outside the harbour and close to a favoured fishing spot.

Ulladulla, approximately 230 kms south of Sydney, is doing it tough just like so many other townships all along the coast.

Empty Esky is an initiative on social media firstly to promote business devastated by the fires and to encourage visits from tourists when allowed. They’ve highlighted breweries, bakeries, gift shops, jewellers and all manner of local produce to a broad audience.

My money is going to small business this year. I‘m a 1000 kilometres from the south coast so am unable to do much, but I can do a bit……….

………. starting with the Harbour Bookshop in Ulladulla, an independent book store on the highway that runs through the middle of town, which has an easy to manoeuvre website and posts all book orders over $60 at no additional cost. 

Thank you to my two Book Fairies for organising some new books for their old Mo and introducing me to this retail outlet on the coast.

Next month I’ll look into a boutique Gin Distillery I’ve discovered on Empty Esky just a little further down the coast.


The Strange History of Possum Island Free State by Tim Slee

Tim (TJ) Slee is the Australian author of Taking Tom Murray Home, released in 2019, and the winner of the inaugural Banjo prize.

His latest novella has been released to support participating Australian Book Sellers. The author receives no royalties and requests that you support a local bookstore when they re-open for business. Go here for your free copy from Book Funnel:

https://dl.bookfunnel.com/g0hwxd6dec

The blub for The Strange History of Possum Island Free State states:

Sometimes you pick a place, and sometimes the place picks you.

Red Rigney was given five years to live. He didn’t expect to spend it living on Possum Island. But Possum Island had plans for Red Rigney.”

I read this in a single sitting. Loved it – just so Aussie in both tone and topic. Student squats in inner Sydney, the avant-garde arts scene, an island in the middle of the harbour, native title disputes, remnants of a convict past, the red tape of bureaucracy………. All so very familiar………

Slee sure knows how to tell a good yarn !

Museums Aren’t Dead

The Redland Museum is my local history museum and is situated in the suburb of Cleveland, Brisbane. It specialises in preserving the Redland’s social history from 1842 to the present day.

Each year the Museum hosts the local community theatre group who perform an Australian-themed play over a period that includes January 26th – Australia Day. The event is a fundraiser for both the theatre group and the museum and is an example of community working together at its best with meals being prepared, cooked and served by both volunteer museum staff and the performers.

With the rain we were prevented from eating alfresco under the towering eucalypts, and instead dined amongst the Cobb and Co Carriages and fencing wire display. As always it was a hugely entertaining night.

The Museum takes pride in regularly changing its exhibits.

Room For Reading explores its large collection of children’s Annuals and favourite books such as Charles Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ together with nostalgic Christmas cards and postcards sent from France by soldiers in the First World War.

Extended to February29th.

Publishers of magazines and periodicals introduced ‘Annuals’ during the first decades of the 19th Century. By the late 1800s, the genre of children’s annuals developed rapidly. Publishers competed for their share of this emerging, and increasingly literate, reading audience. The ‘Boy’s Own Annual’ and the ‘Girl’s Own Annual’ engrossed young readers with adventure stories for boys and educational articles for girls. I always opted for the Boy’s Own myself.


Who would buy a bag from Harrod’s when this was on offer at Notting Hill?

Other books on display include Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and W.E. Johns pilot and adventurer ‘Biggles’ as well as  children’s books by Australian authors such as ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’, ‘The Magic Pudding’ and ‘Blinky Bill’. I will forever remain enamoured by the Gumnut babies….

It’s a small exhibition but it brought back many memories.

NOTE: I was talking to an English lass today who was unfamiliar with May Gibbs and her gumnut babies. So, for cultural exchange purposes a photo of gumnuts, which were the idea behind Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Beautiful, aren’t they?

Happy Australia Day Long Weekend

In 2011, 24 year old Turia Pitt, was trapped in a grass fire blaze during a 100km ultra marathon in the Australian outback. She suffered full thickness burns to 65% of her body.

Turia spent over six months in hospital and underwent over 200 operations.

Pitt has mentored thousands through her online programs, raised funds and awareness for a variety of philanthropic concerns, and authored two books: *Everything To Live For, and Unmasked.

On the quiet she also visits burns victims whilst in hospital, including those from the recent volcano disaster in New Zealand.

The young mum has recently started a campaign called Spend with Them, with the intent to drive spending in tourist towns decimated by fire.

“For example, if you live on the coast, you can jump on to the Instagram page, Spend with Them, and buy something from a homewares store in Milton, or a bottle of gin from a microbrewery in Bega and you can help put the money into the pockets of those who need it.”

Empty Esky is another successful grassroots campaign and movement founded by three friends, that inspires people to go on a road trip to the many unique Australian towns affected by the bushfires and spend their money on local goods and services to inject money back into the community – take an #emptyesky and fill it with local produce, goods and treats. Empty Esky is a simple, effective, long-term way for the public, travellers and adventurers alike, to help those towns bounce back.

It’s not easy to participate in these activities when you reside in faraway Queensland, though both initiatives include opportunities to shop online. Again, something I’m not into but am getting the hang of quite easily:)

And a florist in Batemans Bay on the south coast of NSW, A Classy Touch, delivered a flower and fruit basket on my behalf and included two kilos of carrots for some of the local kangaroo population.

Shop local. Spend local. Spend big.


*Everything To Live For is a wonderful read which will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. This is the story of one strong, brave, funny, courageous Aussie lass. Love her to bits.